As legalized wagering grows at a rapid pace across the country, concerns over responsible gambling are also increasing. So, how are states like California dealing with the problem, and what resources are available to gamblers at risk of becoming addicted?
Californians have plenty of gambling options available
The state of California has specific responsible gambling requirements operators must follow. At the same time, the state provides resources to keep problem gamblers from destroying their lives.
California sports betting is still illegal, but there are plenty of other ways to gamble in The Golden State. There are 76 tribal-run casinos across the state. There are nearly 100 legal poker rooms, several well-known horse racing venues, and, of course, the California Lottery. And don’t forget about Las Vegas. Sin City is just a few short hours away from most of the major cities in Southern California.
Even if sports betting is not available to Californians, easy access to gambling still exists.
Efforts to fight problem gambling lacks ample funding
To combat a problem, you must first know the extent of the problem. A responsible gambling audit conducted last year by California Acting State Auditor Michael S. Tilden showed that California does not know how many problem gamblers there are in the state. The auditor’s report criticized The Office of Problem Gambling for failing to understand just how vast the problem is in California.
“The Office of Problem Gambling cannot show that its evaluation of its programs and services has any direct connection to improvements in those programs and services.”
The report said a major issue is a lack of funding. The Office of Problem Gambling in California has an annual budget of $9 million to combat potential negative repercussions from a billion-dollar industry.
Dr. Timothy Fong from the University of California Los Angeles Gambling Studies Program told The Sacramento Bee that it’s critical for California to get ahead of the problem, especially before sports betting is legalized.
“The bottom line is we don’t know (how this will affect the number of people dealing with problem gambling), but it would be much better to be prepared ahead of time than have thousands of people suffering and have nowhere to turn.”
In the same article, Oklahoma State University professor and PlayCA correspondent John Holden warned that a crisis could be just around the corner.
“Everyone knows that this is a concern, but I think dollar signs sort of take over in peoples’ heads and then people just wind up doing the bare minimum. It’s really a shame because I think at some point there is going to be a price to pay for that.”
The differences between responsible gambling and problem gambling
Responsible gambling is acting responsibly while gambling or while providing gambling or gaming services. Problem gambling is an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on one’s life. It can be devastating to people who have addictive personalities. It can be like an overwhelming anchor that’s impossible to cut loose.
There are several signs of problematic gambling or gambling addiction.
- Hiding gambling activity or lying about gambling activity to others.
- Allowing gambling to take away from other priorities in life.
- Letting the outcome of wagers dictate future bets, such as playing through losses or chasing more wins.
- Spending too much time or money on gambling.
- Feeling guilty about gambling activities.
- Trying to borrow more money to gamble with from loved ones.
- Selling personal items in order to generate more money to gamble with.
- Failing to keep up on bills or other essential needs.
- Cashing out stocks or bonds for money to wager or getting cash advances on credit cards to gamble.
- Skipping school or work to gamble.
- Getting defensive when discussions of problem gambling arise.
- Failing to keep up on basic hygiene and health due to gambling addiction.
- Having mood swings or becoming unstable when not gambling.
There are basic steps that can be taken to combat problem gambling.
- Keep records of the money used to gamble with.
- Set limits and stick to them when it comes to how much money is used to wager.
- Do not gamble with money that is intended for paying bills or other basic needs.
- Do not let the outcome of wagers dictate if another wager is placed.
- Avoid gambling when depressed or anxious to avoid making it a means of escape.
- Remember that it is OK to ask for help if gambling responsibly has become difficult.
Resources in California to help with problem gambling
If more help is required, there are resources available to Californians experiencing problems with gambling, including resources to help family and friends dealing with a problem gambler.
Office of Problem Gambling
As mentioned earlier, there’s the Office of Problem Gambling (OPG), which is a part of the California Department of Public Health. The OPG provides access to a platform that provides information and services specifically designed to prevent problem gambling before it begins.
There are also services to treat those who are suffering from gambling addiction. The agency provides expansive counseling, and a hotline is available 24 hours a day. The OPG also provides technical assistance, helps boost public awareness as it relates to problem gambling habits and funds research into irresponsible gambling.
The OPG can be reached by calling 1-800-GAMBLER; texting SUPPORT to 53342; and online by visiting the 800GAMBLER.CHAT webpage.
California Gambling Education and Treatment Services
Another resource is California Gambling Education and Treatment Services (CGETS), which is a treatment program available through the Walden House. The Walden House is a statewide organization that offers access to behavioral health services.
The CGETS connects people with a gambling addiction or bad gambling habits with licensed specialists who give free and confidential treatment options.
California Council on Problem Gambling
Another option for resources to help prevent or treat gambling addiction is the California Council on Problem Gambling (CCPG). It is a state agency designed to help people get ahead of a possible gambling addiction before it takes hold. The CCPG is the California branch of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
The CCPG has several treatment methods.
- Assistance from trained therapists and counselors to treat or prevent gambling addiction.
- A free inpatient program at a residential treatment facility.
- An expansive outpatient treatment program.
- Community support groups.
- Tools for responsible gambling and gambling addiction prevention.
- Self-help tools and publications full of helpful information for prevention and recovery.
Bureau of Gaming Control and California Gambling Control Commission
The state of California has a voluntary self-exclusion and self-restriction system that allows gamblers to exclude themselves from entering casinos and other gambling establishments in the state. This program is put on by the Bureau of Gaming Control and the California Gambling Control Commission.
There are two forms of exclusion. The first is a one-year self-exclusion that is irrevocable. The second form is a lifetime self-exclusion, which can be removed after a year. Players can also protect themselves by filling out a self-restriction form to keep them from paying certain games or in certain gambling establishments, from cashing checks to gamble with, from using credit to pull out cash advances, and/or receiving marketing or promotional material from gambling institutions.
Those restrictions also last either one year or for a lifetime, with the minimum restriction time being 12 months.
It is important to note that tribal casinos are exempt from these requirements. Some have their own exclusion or restriction programs.